Metro shut down could have dragged on for several weeks after 'worst damage in 25 years'

Metro bosses claim it is “remarkable” that a major failure which shut down part of the rail network for five days did not drag on for several weeks.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 10th July 2019, 1:05 pm

Passengers were forced to endure a week of misery caused by two severe overhead line failures within four hours on April 29.

It took engineers 33 hours to restore service between Shiremoor and West Monkseaton, but it was five days before similar repairs between Chillingham Road and Byker were completed.

And while those delays were bad enough for Metro users, councillors were told on Thursday that it might have been much, much worse.

Michael Ellison, Metro’s acting director of rail and infrastructure, told a Tyne and Wear transport committee that the overhead line damage was the worst he had seen in 25 years.

He added that without a £1million piece of machinery used to recover a train that became trapped in a low-ceilinged tunnel because of the failure, as well as a specialist repairs team that Nexus created in 2013, it would likely have taken at least four weeks to resolve the problems.

Mr Ellison said: “If there was not that investment we had then the works would have taken much longer to repair than they did. Getting it back in a week was a remarkable piece of work.”

Nexus managing director Tobyn Hughes praised engineering staff for giving up their own time and working around the clock to make the repairs, saying that their “goodwill, expertise, and willingness to go the extra mile” was vital.

At West Monkseaton, engineers replaced 595m of wiring and repaired two bent and twisted masts and four cantilevers.

And at Chillingham Road, they replaced 500m wire and repaired another twisted mast.

An investigation has found that the most likely immediate cause was a damaged carbon strip or bare metal from a train pantograph – the apparatus which connects the train carriage to the overhead line – getting caught on or damaging the contact wire.

The probe has recommended more regular checks on overhead lines, a weekly check on pantograph inspections, and more proactive maintenance to prevent similar catastrophic failures in future.